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Varina: Book summary and reviews of Varina by Charles Frazier

Varina by Charles Frazier X
Varina by Charles Frazier
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Book Summary

In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War.

Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history - culpable regardless of her intentions.

The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with "bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit."

Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman's tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Much of what Frazier imagines is consistent with the incomplete historical record surrounding Varina, and he fills in the blanks to reveal a powerful personality that, while of her times, has much to say to us today in respect of how the impact of great events on individuals can affect the history of those events." - Library Journal

"While V's emotional reserve and stoic narration keep her from becoming a fully vibrant character, this is a sharp, evocative novel." - Publishers Weekly

"Intriguing subject. Uneven execution." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Mary

Varina review
I enjoyed the presentation of history and the characters as they were developed in Varina. The pre and post Civil War south, its politics and people, its industry and commerce were defined from an individual's perspective - the wife of Jefferson Davis. The author also brought the reality of a "southern society life" for a young woman -partly privileged and yet controlled and disenfranchised. I realize that Frazier could not and did not cover all the horrible aspects of slavery and the war, but gave an excellent picture of one (albeit fictional) individual's experience.

Margottu

Deep, revealing, beautifully written
An excellent read about a time and place I knew so little about but always wondered. What happened to the South directly after the war, how did the citizens feel, what about the Confederate leaders?

BeckyH

I should have loved it!
The person is eminently interesting – the wife of the Confederate President. The era is interesting – the decades before, during, and after the American Civil War. The episodes are fascinating – a Southern white woman raising an enslaved child as her own: the escape of fugitives in a devastated land: the marriage of a 17 year old to a 40 year old. So why didn’t I like it?

The episodes are just that – episodes that jump from decade to decade with no cohesion. The story is not a story – there is no plot. The tempo and pacing are erratic at best.

BUT… the writing is wonderful. The conclusions are insightful. The characters are real and well presented.

YOU might like it. I didn’t.

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Author Information

Charles Frazier Author Biography

Photo © Phil Bray / © Miramax Films

Charles Frazier was born in 1950 in Asheville, North Carolina and grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1973,  received an M.A. from Appalachian State University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina in 1986. 

Cold Mountain
, his highly acclaimed first novel, was an international bestseller, and won the National Book Award in 1997.  It traces the journey of Inman, a wounded deserter from the Confederate army - the story is based in part on Frazier's great-great-uncle , W. P. Inman.   A movie adaptation was released in 2003.

His second novel, Thirteen Moons, was published in 2006, with an $8 million advance from his USA publisher. He is also the author of ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

Other books by Charles Frazier at BookBrowse
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  • Cold Mountain jacket
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